Where, Were, and Properties

Sample 1: “Plenty (of) cases of looting and stealing of people’s properties and goods where recorded.”(Man who stole from Shoprite was caught…Opera News, 25 October, 2020)

First, we are interested in the word properties which occurs in the following context: “stealing of people’s properties and goods.” Notice that the word properties is found in the same context in which the word goods occurs. In other words, during the protests, properties, like goods, were looted and stolen.It should be obvious that the properties under reference are personal items/belongings that can be moved from place to place.

This is the heart of the matter. Whenever we use the word property to refer to personal effects or movable items such as shoes, clothes, furniture, television sets, fridges, generators, and even motor cars, we should use it in its singular form. No matter the volume or quantity of such items, the word property should remain in its singular form and the choice of verb should be singular.


Please read the following sentences:

1) The landlord has seized the tenant’s property kept in two rooms, saying he won’t release it until and unless he pays all his debt.

2) No matter how long you stay in the UK, your property will remain in this room and it will be intact.

3) Before I woke up, he had gathered all his property and travelled back to our home town.

4) Since he owns little property, he doesn’t need more than one room.

5) Fire destroyed the entire house including his sister’s property kept in one of the rooms.

6) His property consists of a few items all of which are kept in one huge bag.

7) After working for two years, his property is so much that he needs to rent a second room.

8) Thieves broke into the room and made away with almost all his property.

9) He has found a new house and his children are helping to carry her property to the new place.

10) Two trucks carried his property to his newly built house.

11) In those days, slaves were considered part of the personal property of rich men.

12) Shoes and shirts are the most prominent elements of my property.

The word property has been used in its singular form in each of those sentences because it is about personal effects, household items, movable belongings. However, when the word is employed in reference to land and houses, it can be used in the singular sense if the reference is to a singular item or in the plural if the reference is to two or more items. Indeed, whenever the word property is used in the plural by knowledgeable people, the assumption is that the reference is to land/houses. It should not be used in the plural sense if the reference is to personal effects as discussed and illustrated earlier.


Now read the following sentences:

1) The government has decided to sell all its properties in the choicest parts of the country.

2) Properties are more expensive in Lagos than in any other part of Nigeria.

3) I have three uncles who are into the business of buying and selling of properties.

4) There is an uncompleted property which the owner wants to sell at a moderate price.

5) I have refused to buy that property because it is too close to a stream.

6) The prosecution has alleged that the politically exposed persons have acquired the said properties with the proceeds of corruption.

7) Only teachers are allowed to buy and own properties in the estate.

8) I want to acquire a property in an exclusive area.

9) He rejected the property because it was too close to the police barracks.

10) Being in a marshy and undeveloped area, the property should not be expensive.

Next, we go back to the same structure in which we have identified the unsatisfactory use of the word properties. Here is the structure: “looting and stealing of people’s properties and goods where recorded.” Please note the word where in the phrase: “where recorded.”  It almost beggars belief that anyone would insert the wh- word where in the position in which it occurs in the structure under reference.

My guess is that the error stems from a pronunciation crisis on the part of some Nigerians who often pronounce were as where (and presumably vice versa). It is likely the case that they would select where or wereblindly in a context requiring just one of them. In other words, the two words remain undifferentiated in reality. Elementary as these issues are, it is expedient to illustrate the usage of the words involved to avoid the risk of misleading young and vulnerable readers.


Please read the following sentences illustrating the usage of the verb were:

1) If I were you I would not borrow a kobo for the burial of such a useless relative.

2) Janet and Ajetunmobi were husband and wife until December last year.

3) The girls were punished for coming late.

4) All the bills were thrown out by the National Assembly because they wereallegedly sponsored by the opposition party.

5) The patients were discharged prematurely because the health workers had gone on strike.

6) The children were always complaining about their father’s absence from home.

7) The two women were always trading insults in public.

8) The five names that were initially on the reserve list were later brought to the main list.

9) The villagers were not interested in talking to the police.

10) The offensive clauses were later removed from the constitution.


Please note that like is, am, was, and are, the word were is a form of BE. It occurs in contexts similar to those in which the other forms of BE occur. But specifically, it is:

1) used with plural nouns

2) in its past form. Actually, it is the past form of are.


Now compare its usage with that of where:

1) Where were you when the inspector arrived?

2) Where would you like to spend the next holidays?

3) Where in western Nigeria is the place in which hot water is flowing side by side with cold water?

4) Where are you living?

5) Nobody seems to know where the information leaked.

6) You should know that where your right ends is where another person’s right begins.

7) Where else in Africa is the press as vibrant as our own?

8) He is so energetic that one sometimes wonders where the energy comes from.

9) I will continue to live in Lagos, where I have lived for the past ten years.

10) I don’t even know where to start.

11) Where is your faith, you doubting Thomas?

Please let the verb were replace where in the context under consideration.



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